It’s Time to Step Away & Put Your Users at the Centre of Your Content Strategy
For many businesses, creating content can be an arduous task. Usually this is because in-house resources are rather tight when it comes to creating content on a regular basis. Or sometimes, the skillset simply isn’t there. However, another barrier I come up against, or more slows the process down in the beginning, is the lack of understanding in the value of creating content. When I say “value” I do mean revenue!
For an Ecommerce business, for example, the primary goal is transactions and revenue generated. It’s totally understandable. You’re in business to make money!
Where’s the value in creating content? Oh yeah, for SEO. I did that in the beginning, but it took up too much time and I didn’t see the return I wanted.
If you have been creating content (or none at all in many cases), with the sole purpose of your business revenue goals in mind, rather than the user, you could be in for a bumpy ride down the rankings.
Graham said it perfectly in his blog “your customer’s goals should be your goals.”
Google’s Algorithm Update (March 2019)
On March 12th Google confirmed that it had made an update to its core algorithm. Targeting predominantly those that fall under the Your Money Your Life (YMYL) category, essentially websites that fall under the health segment. As a result a lot of websites saw their traffic deteriorate dramatically. Phew! I hear you say. But wait there’s more.
The algorithm update seemed to favour and reward websites that had content optimised to Google’s E-A-T standards. These standards put an emphasis on the overall Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness of a site. The higher Google scores you in these areas, the greater the reward.
Although many of the websites initially affected were health centric, there were a large number of other sites across a variety of industries affected by the update. I think it’s important to read between the lines here. Google’s goal, from a user point of view, is to return the most relevant search results to a user’s query. It’s that simple. With artificial intelligence becoming more advanced and user’s expectations of search evolving, your content has to go beyond trying to rank just for those high volume, high value keywords.
Content marketing, it’s about simply creating & distributing, right? Unfortunately not. It’s about creating an experience. A content experience can be defined as, the environment in which it lives, and how it engages users to take action on your site.
In layman’s terms, it is the experience you get, both good and bad, when you interact with a piece of content.
What’s A Content Environment?
The environment in which it lives. Essentially the aesthetics of the content. It relates to the overall presentation of the content. Is it structured in a digestible and easy to navigate format? Is it in line with the brand? It’s all about creating attractive content that users want to consume and engage with and ultimately give them a positive user experience. It is about integrating relevant copy, image and video with good quality UX.
You want your content to serve a purpose, for both you and the user. It is important to create content that is as relevant as can be to the user’s query. Once you’ve given them a positive user experience, the next step is for them to engage with you (all going well).
The more personal the experience the better. User’s want to feel as if the messaging has been tailored to them. If you want to bring your user on a content journey, or simply want to generate leads, then make sure your CTA’s are relevant and natural. Think about what is relevant, and better yet, what fits contextually.
Creating A Content Experience
Creating incredible content isn’t about finding high volume keywords and churning out a long-form blog once a month. To create an experience, you need to begin by diving deep into that particular topic and consider all the possible needs your potential customers may have related to that topic.
Remember, you don’t have one type of customer. Your content has to satisfy a wide range of user needs. These needs can be transactional, but also informational.
For me, a content experience doesn’t have to begin when a user visits your site. It can now begin on the search engine results pages. With SERP features like Featured Snippets, it gives businesses an opportunity to entice and engage users before they even click. As users enter the top of the funnel and begin their research, you can seize the opportunity to be top of mind.
Consider an online retailer selling laptops. Now consider all the different types of information a user might search for around the keyword “laptops”.
They may be interested in;
- Use cases – for designers, college students
User research is a crucial part of developing a content strategy. There are numerous data sources you can use to help research what type of content to create. It’s about thinking outside the box.
- Focus Groups
- Customer Personas
- Your Employees
- Keyword Research
If you can, start with a research focus group. This is particularly beneficial in highly competitive, niche markets where there might not be many product or service variations. Getting your customers in front of you can reveal a lot about their needs.
At Friday, one of the first steps we take in the beginning of any project is carrying out user research. Whether it’s driving a UX project, a new web build or a content strategy, research helps create that roadmap.
Don’t base your decisions on assumptions, it’s far more beneficial to just ask.
If you can’t access a focus group, then try and get into the minds of your customer personas. What way do they think? What needs do each of them have? It’s not just about providing a product or service that they need. They may have had a particular thought process justifying why they need it. They may have gone through a series of events which led them to come looking for your product. Whatever the needs, each user has their own unique situation.
Talk to the people that deal with your customers on a daily basis. They will have a wealth of insights into what your customers needs are.
This should all be supported with in-depth keyword research. In particular, more long-tail keywords and queries. As long as it makes contextual sense. Start with your core keywords and work out.
Gathering, grouping and categorising all of this data can then help mapping out your content pillars and calendar. The real work begins when it comes to creating and publishing.
Get on to forums relevant to your industry. See what everyone is talking about. They can be a goldmine of information. If you can’t get in front of your customer’s this is the next best thing.
Expertise + Brand = Trust (A Winning Formula)
When you gain trust, you build valuable, long-lasting relationships.
Creating content that covers the length and breadth of a particular topic showcases your knowledge, experience and expertise. When your content is in-depth and consistently provides users with exactly what they want, it will positively effects for your brand
When you build your brand and establish yourself as the expert, you’re not only gaining the trust of the user, but you’re also gaining the trust of Google.
From an SEO perspective, even if you’re not appearing in first position, if your brand is strong enough, and recognised as an authority in a particular field, users are more likely to click on your search result. Why click on a result from a brand you know nothing about, when you know you’ll get exactly what you want from the link in position 3?
Does your page solve the user’s problem? Does it meet, and hopefully, go beyond their expectations? When you’re content matches the intent of the user, you’re providing them with positive user experiences.
We don’t just love positive user experiences, Google loves them too. Positive user experiences translate to positive user signals. It’s these user signals that can benefit your organic visibility. Examples of these signals are;
- Click Through Rates
- Length of Time on Site
- Lower Bounce Rates
- Number of Pages Visited
Of course, these metrics are case dependent. Sometimes a user gets what they need and leaves. There’s no need for any further action. For example, looking for the contact number of a business.
So What Next?
Making the shift to creating high quality, user-centric content will pay dividends in the long-run. We’re living in a digital world saturated with advertisements and what sometimes feels like too many options.
Why would you want lots of options, when there could be one choice that solves everything?
If you want to avoid slugging it out in the trenches with growing numbers of competitors and rise to the top, then you need to put your efforts into positively strengthening your brand. You need to gain the trust of your target audience. Once you have that, a lot of the work is done for you in terms of consumers deciding whether to choose you or your competitors.
How do you get there? Start by giving your users exactly what they want, and then give them more. There’s potential customers out there, that you didn’t even know you had. Give them positive, unforgettable experiences and become ‘the’ expert in what you do.
If you’re curious about creating a user-centric content strategy or would like to know more, then feel free to get in touch with the team at Friday.